My understanding of Twitter, was based on its slogan “what are you doing?” I thought it was a social networking service for socially challenged teenagers who ‘tweeted’ on things they did and saw in between updating their status on MySpace, Facebook or their blogs. This clip explains it in plain English. Why would anyone broadcast to the world that they are having coffee, eating or cutting the grass? This clip summarised my view of Twitter. As did this opinion piece. A few weeks ago The Times had a great piece on ‘Generation Reveal’Â and whether we are witnessing the death of discretion.
What do I use in the wonderful world of Web 2.0? I only started using Facebook when I left Australia to begin my European Odyssey (June 2007). It was a way to quickly connect with my friends and update them on my travel destinations. I was not a replacement for my life! I also have a LinkedIn and Xing account. I never liked MySpace, so never signed up. Last year I signed up to Hyves (which is incorrectly called the Dutch Facebook). The Netherlands is the only Western European country where Facebook has not taken off. Hyves is way popular among the Dutch, (I love them more for that!). Apart from that I do not use anything else. Heard about Twitter, but thought the clue was in the first four letters.
This view, or more like my disregard for Twitter changed on Thursday. I attended a workshop on Journalism and New Web Technology. It was part of the Europe@myDesk events organised by the Young European Federalists (JEF: Jeunes Européens Fédéralistes/Junge Europäische Föderalisten). I do not consider myself a federalist in JEF’s definition of the term but I went along to see what I could learn.
The presentation was given by blogger and website designer, Jon Worth. Jon was behind the UK’s Atheist Bus campaign. It was a brilliant and informative presentation on how to use new web technology and media in journalism and political campaigns.
Describing Twitter, Jon said “Facebook is for the people you know, Twitter is for the people you would like to know.” I asked him about the uses and demographics of Twitter. He said that “People on Twitter help each other more than on Facebook.” He used examples of Twitter pages, including 10 Downing Street among others.He said that ‘tweets’, those messages of 140 characters on Twitter, are meant to be super quick interactions to share information, links, announcements. The most interesting thing was his comment that “Teens don’t tweet.”
This is in reference to a Morgan Stanley report written by a fifteen-year-old intern, Matthew Robson. Titled ‘How Teenagers Consume Media‘, the report is somewhat questionable but it attracted a lot of media. Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian and Time are just the few that reported on it.
This reminds me of a story I was once told. SMS was initially a free service on a Nokia phone, and until a fourteen year old boy in a focus group said he could ask a girl out for a date texting rather than calling, did Nokia see other uses for it. Not sure if its a true story, but let me now if you find a reference for it.
Anyhow, Robson said in his report:
“teenagers do not use twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then just leave it as they realise that they are not going to update it (mostly because texting twitter uses up credit, and they would rather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless.”
This is interesting. Here are the figures by Nielsen. Some interesting comments here, here and here. The most striking observation by Ben Parr is “Twitter’s different than Facebook or MySpace because Twitter is not about your friends.” His analysis is quite interesting:
“Teenagers are notorious for being terrible at social engagement, voting, and keeping up with the news. While I don’t want to typecast an entire age demographic, I can say this with confidence: Teens, more than any other age group, care about their friends.”
Also here is an another analysis on when to use Facebook and Twitter.
So the workshop and Jon Worth’s comment that “teens don’t tweet” opened my mind up to Twitter. While I am not totally converted, I will try it out. I am far to busy to be microblogging and (mega) blogging. But having an open mind (not just an open mouth) I have signed up to Twitter, you can follow me @ShanmuganTweets. Sadly “@shanmugan” was already taken. It seems to be an inactive account, perhaps used by a teenager and now left dormant. If anyone knows how I can claim it, please let me know. Teenagers included.
UPDATE 22 February 2011:
Image Source: www.jonworth.eu